Sunday, November 8, 2015


starring: Pepper and Thistle as themselves

Pepper: I dare say, brother, I would pay my weight in Eukanuba to learn where on Earth summer has gone.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Loren Long and LITTLE TREE

Philomel Books
Pub date: October 27, 2015

Loren Long visited Eagle Harbor Book Company on Halloween for a cozy reading on a blustery day. I loved meeting him!

He read LITTLE TREE, his beautiful new picture book,

and he drew an incredible picture while he was smack in front of us. Seriously, people, the picture was totally something I'd love to frame and hang in my house--and he drew it with his sketch pad upside down in his lap so the kids could see the drawing. I was super impressed!

The children and adults adored him, and his story touched everyone. We're talking teary eyes in the audience. It was a perfect event!

I woke up this morning thinking about how lovely the book is. I bought a book as a gift yesterday, but I'm planning to go back and buy a copy of LITTLE TREE for myself.

What's one of your favorite picture books? Are you as blown away as I am when you see illustrators whip up art right before your eyes?

Friday, October 30, 2015

THE FAIRY SWARM book party

I had a great time Tuesday night at Eagle Harbor Book Company celebrating THE FAIRY SWARM by Suzanne Selfors.

written by Suzanne Selfors and illustrated by Dan Santat

THE FAIRY SWARM is the final book in The Imaginary Veterinary series. I love that series--love--so I was tickled to dress up as a sugar fairy for the party!

left to right: Suzanne Selfors, George Shannon as Mr. Tabby, me, Lynn Brunelle as Dr. Woo, Walker Ranson as a sugar fairy, and Bob Ranson as Sasquatch

It was such a fun event! If you're unfamiliar with the The Imaginary Veterinary series, check out this page on Suzanne's website. There are fabulous book trailers, an activity kit, reviews, and more.

What's your favorite book series? Tell me, tell me, tell me!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

October busy-ness

October seems to always be an extra busy, hoppin' month. Here's what's been going on in a nutshell. Or an eggshell, since our seven chickens are all laying now. That's big news because this is the first time our family has had chickens, and it was only last spring that they looked like this:

They grow so fast. *sigh* But since this isn't a poultry blog, let's move on!

It was exciting to see friends make the list of finalists for the Washington State Book Awards.

A group of us, new friends and old, got together to celebrate the finalists before the winners were announced at the Central Library in Seattle.

Left to right: critique partners Margaret Nevinski and Jennifer K. Mann, finalist George Shannon, finalist Jennifer Longo, me, Suzanne Selfors (a 2014 winner), and finalist Maureen McQuerry

Jennifer Mann won the picture book category for TWO SPECKLED EGGS. Woo-hoo! Here she is accepting her award and then reading her book.

Congratulations to the finalists and winners! Of course, you're ALL winners! What a huge accomplishment!

Last week, SCBWI-Western Washington kicked off the 2015-2016 season of monthly programming with our first meeting. Agent Barry Goldblatt was our featured speaker. I'd heard him speak before (as well as his fabulous client and wife, Libba Bray), but it's always a great opportunity to hear the latest and learn more. It's especially convenient when you don't have to fly to LA or New York to do so.

Today I met with my critique partner Faith Pray. Such a fun morning!

I feel so fortunate to have three incredible critique partners. Each of them brings piles of talent, knowledge, encouragement, and inspiration to the table, and each shines and sheds her own unique light. I learn so much from all three individuals. I hope to give as much as I receive! I'll meet with Margaret and Jen this coming week. 

Other than that, October has been a nice yet busy combination of writing, work, family, friends, dogs,

and chickens. (Yes, back to the chickens!)

Oh! And reading! I just read THREE TIMES LUCKY by Sheila Turnage.

What a voice! I devoured it. It's such a great book!

How about you? How has your month been? Have you read anything wonderful lately?

Thursday, August 13, 2015


I realize it's been a while since I've blogged about craft or my own writing. Imagine that! Kind of silly since this is, after all, a writing blog! So...

Today I'm working on outlining. I'm not outlining a new story, but I'm working on reoutlining the end of a draft. (Is "reoutlining" even a word? It should be!)

How I work:
I outline a whole novel, breaking it down from start to finish. I love having a road map to follow, or a skeleton to fill in and make solid. Still, my outline is fluid. I often tend to come up with more interesting pieces as I write or I find flaws in some of my earlier ideas. Since this can never be predicted, the roads on my map change, the bones of my skeleton alter.

Once I've outlined, I start writing. At the beginning of a new chapter or sometimes before particular scenes, I do a basic outline again, writing down what I'm hoping to accomplish. If bits of dialogue or any other details hit me or float across my brain while outlining, I make note of them before I can forget them. 

This process requires me to change my bigger map from time to time. Right now is one of those times. I know where I'm headed and I know many of the things that have to happen between now and the end of the book, but I have to get them in the ideal order, eliminate paths that no longer feel right, and fill in spots. Since I can always cut things later, I tend to over-write in earlier drafts--or in new sections of older drafts. I'm not letting myself go back and edit yet (at least, not much) because I want to get to the end of this draft. Instead, I make notes to myself for the next draft. Suggestion: keep notes in the same place so they're together and easy to locate.

Right now I'm finding note cards to be helpful. I can move them and play with the order of my scenes, add cards, and remove cards. Some cards are filled, front and back, and some are just one single line. I trim (literally--with scissors) the ones that aren't full; I can always add more cards to fill in blanks and--I don't know--maybe being able to physically handle my pieces and use scissors and a pencil gives me some sort of benefit. I'm one of those people who likes to feel fabrics and paper and books when I'm shopping. Maybe I'm feeling my way through my novel's ending!

I bought Scrivener last year, but I never committed to learning it. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Scrivener is a really cool software application designed for writers, and it has all sorts of features, including a virtual corkboad with virtual note cards to help with outlining. I plan to learn it better eventually, but, as I said, I'm not yet there. I suppose my method is like Scrivener for Cavemen and Cavewomen. Tee-hee!

I discovered I can sometimes see my story clearer or fresher if I change the way I'm outlining it. For example:
*switching from a computer outline to one in a spiral notebook
*breaking my story into three acts and dangling scenes from a line
*switching from a detailed outline on pages to scenes on note cards or scenes labeled on a blank, printed-out calendar

I don't know how many of you are "plotters" (those who plot in advance) or "pantsers" (those who write without a lot of plotting ahead of time--by the seat of their pants). I'm definitely a plotter--though I leave room for and honor the magic that comes when I least expect it, the stuff I could never have thought of without writing out my story.

Of course, there isn't a correct or an incorrect method. This is just how I do things.

How about you? Are you a plotter or a pantser? If you're a plotter, please share something about the way you plot your novels! If you're a pantser, please tell me about that! I'd love to hear!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hip-hip-hooray for Jennifer and George!

Bloggy friends, please help me congratulate two dear friends on their latest picture books!


Uber-fun bookseller Victoria Irwin of Eagle Harbor Book Company helped me model their new and completely adorable books on Saturday.

Watch out, Heidi Klum! (Though I have a hunch we're a non-threat.)

Jennifer's book, I WILL NEVER GET A STAR ON MRS. BENSON'S BLACKBOARD, came out June 9. Isn't the cover fabulous?

Candlewick Press

I love that Jen's book about a girl who wants a star on a blackboard earned a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Sooo cool! Here's the Publishers Weekly review:

In a world--in this case, Mrs. Benson's elementary school classroom--where the neatniks and rule-followers get stars by their names on the blackboard, what's an inveterate doodler and daydreamer like Rose to do? Fortunately, Mrs. Benson isn't as autocratic and uncompromising as she seems: she gives Rose a much-needed pass on desk inspection day ("Close call, huh, Rosey? I'll look at yours tomorrow"), and sees star-worthy creativity in an enormous thank-you card that Rose makes for a visiting painter ("Rose, you are a true artist, just like Mr. Sullivan"). Mann, in her second book as both author and illustrator, works with assurance as she puts her jittery ink line and layered washes of color to work in the service of both emotional vulnerability and schoolroom slapstick without missing a beat. On the heels of her similarly sensitive treatment of an outsider making it work in Two Speckled Eggs, Mann is well on her way to becoming a champion portrayer of those who color outside the lines or march to a different drum. Ages 5-8.

ONE FAMILY, written by George and illustrated by Blanca Gomez, came out May 26. ONE FAMILY also has a gorgeous cover.

 Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A starred review in Kirkus said:

A playful counting book also acts as a celebration of family and human diversity.

Shannon's text is delivered in spare, rhythmic, lilting verse that begins with one and counts up to 10 as it presents different groupings of things and people in individual families, always emphasizing the unitary nature of each combination. "One is six. One line of laundry. One butterfly's legs. One family." Gomez's richly colored pictures clarify and expand on all that the text lists: For "six," a picture showing six members of a multigenerational family of color includes a line of laundry with six items hanging from it outside of their windows, as well as the painting of a six-legged butterfly that a child in the family is creating. While text never directs the art to depict diverse individuals and family constellations, Gomez does just this in her illustrations. Interracial families are included, as are depictions of men with their arms around each other, and a Sikh man wearing a turban. This inclusive spirit supports the text's culminating assertion that "One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family."

A visually striking, engaging picture book that sends the message that everyone counts. (Picture book. 3-6)

Both books are beautifully written and illustrated, both are getting excellent reviews, and I bought both as gifts for little cousins (sh-hh--that last part's a secret).

Now it's your turn! Do you want to give a shout-out for any picture books that you've seen recently? Do tell!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Book birthday: THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH by Martha Brockenbrough

It's out, it's out! It's out today!

I'd pre-ordered a copy of Martha Brockenbrough's THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH, and I picked it up this afternoon. Look at the beautiful cover!

THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH by Martha Brockenbrough
cover created by Chris Silas Neal
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

I've been eagerly awaiting this YA novel. Why, you ask? I'll tell you: It sounds flippin' awesome.

Here's the blurb:

Anthony and Cleopatra.

Helen of Troy and Paris. 

Romeo and Juliet.

And now...Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured--a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens is anyone's guess.

Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH is a love story you will never forget.

Swoon-worthy, yes? If that doesn't melt your cheddar cheese, what will?

I've heard it's fabulous from people who've had sneak peeks! And check out these reviews

Martha supports writers and illustrators in so many ways. She's a brilliant person, and she's filled to the scalp with writing talent, humor, and kindness. It's so exciting when someone you're rooting for creates a book you'd be dying to read even if you didn't know her. 

I cannot wait to read her story!